King’s student, Samuel Kimpton-Nye, will present his work on the laws of nature and counterlegals at a graduate workshop led by Professor Kit Fine. The workshop accompanies the 3rd biennial Edgingtion Lectures, and will take place on June 3rd and 4th at the Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck College, London.
More information can be found here
Sacha Golob and art historian Terence Rodrigues will discuss themes of opulence, consumption and deprivation. The event will take place in the Somerset House Screening Room at 7pm, Monday the 9th of May.
Tickets and further information can be found here.
Admission is free but tickets must be booked in advance.
The event is part of the Coalstore project.
The international workshop Questions and Enquiry took place on the 5th of April at King’s College London. The workshop, generously funded by the department of Philosophy at King’s College London, and organized by Giulia Felappi, aimed to bring together philosophers and linguists working on the role of questions in enquiry.
Maria Aloni (ILLC & Department of Philosophy, Amsterdam) gave a talk on identity questions, concealed questions and specificational subjects. Maria focused on a recent debate concerning whether sentences like “The number of planets is 8” can be taken as question/answer pairs, and what this can tell us about ontological commitment to numbers.
Manfred Krifka (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin & ZAS Berlin) focused on constituent, alternative, and yes/no questions. He discussed the role of questions in dialogue and suggested taking ‘asking questions’ as forms of ‘common ground management’ on the side of the speakers.
Mike Beaney (KCL & Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) talked about R.G. Collingwood’s logic of questions and answers. Mike discussed Collingwood’s views on the role of questions in philosophical and non-philosophical enquiry. He also showed how Collingwood’s work relates to that of Cook Wilson, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Guido de Ruggiero.
Finally, in his talk, Bob Fiengo (CUNY) argued that questions show, firstly, some crucial differences between knowledge and belief and, secondly, that even some basic forms of knowledge are much more multifarious than we presume.
For those who missed the event, part of the material Maria presented can be found on her website, while Manfred’s latest publication on the topic can be found here. Mike’s latest publication on Collingwood can be found in the new edition of Collingwood’s autobiography. Bob discusses some of the ideas he presented at the workshop in a couple of forthcoming papers: ‘Austin’s Cube’, in Moltmann, & Textor, Act-Based Conceptions of Propositional Content, OUP, and ‘On the Representation of Form and Function’, in Tsohatzidis, Interpreting J. L. Austin, CUP.
A new reading group on the topic of acquaintance will begin this month. The organizers of the reading group intend to give particular focus to the work of John Campbell.
The first meeting will take place at noon on Monday the 11th of April. The location is the Philosophy Graduate Common Room.
For more details, contact Jørgen Dyrstad: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ashley Owen
There are so many interesting topics in the area of human enhancement that it’s hard to pick just one to write about. One issue that prompted a lot of discussion in a recent seminar was regarding ‘love drugs’, touched on briefly by Allen Buchanan in his book ‘Beyond Humanity?’ but covered in greater detail in articles by Julian Savulescu and many others.
The idea is that in the near future we will be able to use chemical/biological enhancements to affect our relationships, for example by enhancing the bond between two people, or reducing the possibility of one partner (or both) being unfaithful. Several studies (on oxytocin in particular) indicate that this is a genuine possibility. Many people in the seminar were uncomfortable with this type of enhancement, but couldn’t quite pin down precisely why. In this post, I hope to elucidate those worries, and examine whether or not they are well grounded.
One idea that arose was that these types of drugs pose a threat to free will (assuming we have it). I’m not convinced this worry is well-founded however. The types of intervention at issue are not so strong as to compel someone to unavoidably act or feel a certain way (like ‘love potions’ in films). Instead, they increase the likelihood of certain behaviours or emotions – behaviours or emotions that the person taking the drug wants to do or feel. Consequently, the possibility to not act that way still remains open. In this sense, such drugs wouldn’t be a shortcut to a perfect relationship, but just another tool people could use if they felt it appropriate, like marriage counselling or date nights. We’re generally comfortable with people taking measures to try and influence their future behaviour, including their behaviour in relationships, without thinking that it removes our free will, so we would need a reason to think that the biomedical nature of the enhancement makes these cases different.
Moreover, the relevant cases are ones where the person choosing to take the drug – assuming she is in a position to make a rational, informed choice – is doing so because she wants her life to turn out a certain way, and is taking the drug in order to help her achieve that goal. That appears to be a free choice. In contrast, generally in relationships, the way we feel and act doesn’t seem to be entirely the result of our own free choice, as it is in part determined by biological factors – most of which are outside our control and have evolved through natural selection. Evolution is only concerned with survival and reproduction, whereas we have a multitude of values and goals that may well override at least reproduction (and most of us in the affluent world don’t have to worry too much about survival). The availability of love drugs could be seen as giving us the opportunity to guide our lives in accordance with our values, rather than be subject to outdated adaptations that are not relevant to our values.
Perhaps what makes people more concerned about love drugs than other enhancements, such as drugs to improve cognition, is that they have a significant impact on someone other than the person taking the drug – namely that person’s partner. While this wouldn’t be a problem if both parties felt the same way and were both taking the pill, it’s not hard to imagine that some people might react badly to finding out that their partner was taking such a drug. They might feel that it reflected badly on them and how their partner felt towards them, or that it rendered their relationship inauthentic somehow.
I think authenticity is more of a concern, although perhaps not insurmountable. If being authentic is understood as being somehow ‘true to ourselves’, it’s not clear that two people choosing to take a chemical to enhance their relationship would necessarily be rendering that relationship inauthentic. It would probably depend on the exact nature of the enhancement being used. For example, taking oxytocin in couples therapy to promote trust and communication in order to increase the chance of the therapy being successful seems to align with the authentic desire of the couple to overcome the problems in their relationship. On the other hand, if the only way someone could stand to be in a relationship with their partner was by taking a drug, that would be problematic. Although that person could be said to genuinely want to love their partner, it might not be so easy to describe the resulting love they feel having taken the drug as authentic. Certainly their partner would probably not feel it was. Having said that, the literature suggests that despite being referred to as ‘love drugs’, such pills would not create love out of nowhere, but instead enhance love that already exists – which could diffuse at least some of the worries about authenticity, as presumably the drugs wouldn’t work in cases such as this one.
Attraction and attachment are affected by a multitude of factors, many involuntary. For example, an increase in adrenaline, such as from being in a frightening situation, makes it more likely that you will feel attracted to someone. We don’t tend to consider such involuntary biological changes to render relationships inauthentic, but perhaps that’s just because we’re not consciously aware of them, which is part of what makes love so mysterious. By making the option available to voluntarily induce certain feelings, perhaps we risk losing what makes them so valuable to us.
In our drive to understand love, we may well be stripping away some of the mystery. However, if we can use that understanding to improve our relationships – which are so important for happiness, longevity, health etc – then perhaps that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And if ‘love drugs’ can help us to enhance relationships that we value, perhaps that’s not necessarily a bad thing either – but I think that the circumstances and motivation under which they were taken would have to be quite specific in order to overcome the concern about authenticity.
Allen Buchanan. 2011. Beyond Humanity? Oxford University Press.
Savulescu J , Sandberg A. 2008. Neuroenhancement of love and marriage: The chemicals between us. Neuroethics 1 ( 1 ): 31 – 44.
On the 18th of February 2016, the Department of Philosophy at King’s College London will host a graduate conference on the topics of rationality and irrationality.
The conference will feature talks from graduate students working in epistemology, the philosophy action and the philosophy of psychology; respondents from KCL faculty members; and Prof Neil Levy as keynote speaker. Details of the schedule can be found here.